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Russian Uranium for Japan
March 1, 2007 17:17

The Japanese need Russian uranium as they want to enrich it as well as to gain access to Russian uranium deposits, and since the new Act on the atomic industry has come into force, the Japanese have all the opportunities to achieve their purpose.

Japan sees Russia as a partner in the Atomic field. Firstly, the country intends to cooperate with several Russian companies engaged in uranium enrichment, secondly Japan is going to gain access to development of Russian uranium mines. According to the Japanese mass media, Moscow and Tokyo may sign the agreement covering uranium enrichment by Russia Atomprom holding for Japan. The matter concerns uranium from the used fuel rods, which is presently stored in England.

 In addition, the Japanese consider taking advantage of enriching uranium ore mined in Russia and Kazakhstan. The relevant agreement may be signed in the course of the top-level talks before the summer of 2007. Enriching uranium received from the used fuel rods makes it be effective for the second time as nuclear fuel. Japan occupies the third position on the list of the countries involved in nuclear power development as it yields to the USA and France. Currently there are over 50 nuclear power reactors functioning in Japan. By 2017 their capacity is expected to increase by several times, up to 67mn kilowatt.

At the same time Japan doesn’t enrich uranium at the territory of the country, since high-enriched uranium is regarded to be weapon-grade, and the Japanese traditionally try to distance themselves from nuclear weapon. That is the very reason, why Japan came to Russia, which is acknowledged as a competitive country in the atomic industry. It should be mentioned that enriching uranium in the RF costs considerably less than in Europe and amounts to $90 per enrichment unit. Low prices on electricity in Russia caused the difference and the Japanese found the RF the best variant to cooperate with. So far, uranium for Japanese nuclear power plants has been enriched at French and British plants, but the recent rise in prices pushed the country to look for another partner.

 Despite all the changes the Russian atomic industry has undergone since the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia has all the facilities to implement the Japanese project. In 1980s the country witnessed a boom of nuclear power development, so various nuclear objects (military-oriented mainly) were founded, but then the Chernobyl catastrophe occurred and drop in production replaced the fast growth. However, there are four still functioning processing integrated plants in Siberia and the Ural, which Japan can use for its purposes.

In prospect Japan wants to participate in the whole Russian nuclear power cycle - from uranium mining to nuclear fuel processing. All these steps are able to strengthen Japanese energy supply security and the new Act signed on the 1st of February allows foreign corporate entities to be engaged in uranium fields’ development in cooperation with the Russian party.



Olga Pletneva

Tags: Soviet Union Russian economy Russian trade   

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